The Baby Blues vs. Postpartum Depression vs. No Postpartum Mood Disorder

I’ve given birth to three kids, experienced three similar pregnancies,  laboured through three natural, drug-free births, but ended up with three very different postpartum recovery periods…


*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


The Baby Blues

Shortly after the birth of my first child I experienced symptoms of what I believe were the “baby blues.”  They didn’t last long and they didn’t disrupt my life (much).

The dogs and kids get along great now!

The mood swings were my first indicator.  I remember watching my husband interact with the baby while our two dogs sat at his feet watching.  I thought about how the dogs had no idea how much life was changing and I instantly burst into tears.  I’m not usually a sensitive or emotional person so this was a sure sign to me that I was experiencing some type of hormonal imbalance. It was very similar to the mood swings I experienced during pregnancy.

The sleep deprivation added to my emotional state.  The way someone would feel after staying up partying all night long (which may or may not be a familiar feeling for me *wink wink*).  I felt irritable and edgy but sleep (when I could get it) was welcome and helped to alleviate the stress.

Indigo.ca

I blamed the extreme “mom brain” on the sleep deprivation as well.  It was probably one of the hardest symptoms for me to manage as someone who prides themselves on having a great memory.  Suddenly I couldn’t multi-task because I would forget what I was doing in the first place.  I wrote down absolutely everything in a log book, significant or not, in a vain attempt to remember when I last fed him.

I felt an overwhelming urge to protect him and I worried a lot about everything he did.  I worried about holding him too much, or not enough.  I worried about the way others were holding him.  I worried about his diaper being put on properly.  I worried about such small and insignificant things (in addition to all the normal motherhood worrying like how much he was eating, pooping and sleeping).

I didn’t bond with the baby as much as I thought I would.  I spent a lot of time talking to him but the lack of a response discouraged me.  I wasn’t absolutely head over heels in love with him the way motherhood is portrayed in the media.  While I didn’t have any negative feelings, I felt very indifferent towards him.

We didn’t get out of the house much at first.  I was extremely overprotective of him and convinced that he would contract bad germs from strangers.  Aside from worrying, I honestly just didn’t feel like leaving the comfort of my own home.

Carseat "No Touching" Sign
Wish I had one of these signs from NikkiDanielDesigns on Etsy.ca

It eventually went away on it’s own.  Similar to a really bad case of PMS, I started to feel “normal” again.  I didn’t cry at the mere thought of something sad and I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and socialize.  By the time he was 2 months old he was smiling, making eye contact and interacting and I did fall head over heels in love with him.


Postpartum Depression

After the birth of my second child, things felt a little bit different.  That first baby that I didn’t bond with?  Well he was two years old now and the absolute center of my world.  So for the first couple months, things were monotonous and scheduled and boring – as long as the baby was concerned, at least.

She had basic needs and I didn’t try too hard to bond with her.  I knew that would happen eventually so I didn’t put too much pressure on myself this time.  The first two months after her birth were extremely busy in my social life so I didn’t have time to stew over the fact that life as I knew it had completely changed.

But when the dust settled and I was left at home, alone, with a toddler and a newborn who wouldn’t stop crying – things changed…

I was tired and emotional but this time I couldn’t sleep no matter how hard I tried.  Every time I closed my eyes I thought I heard the baby cry and got up to check on her.  Sometimes it was 15 times in an hour but I couldn’t stop myself because I knew the one time I didn’t check on her would be the time something bad happened.  If someone else offered to look after her while I took a nap, then I would lie in bed for 2 hours worrying if she was alright.

In hindsight, I should have taken the help

The mood swings were extreme and uncontrollable.  As the weeks went on, I started to despise her.  I blamed her for everything I was feeling.  She felt my negative feelings and cried harder and longer which made me dislike her even more.  But then I would think about how I’ve always wanted to have a daughter and I would suffocate her in love – until she started crying again.  The slightest things could send me into fits of rage and I got offended and jealous very easily.

I was terrified to leave the house with her.  I was certain she would cry and I wouldn’t be able to handle her and everyone would stare at me and think I was a horrible mother.  So I stayed in my house where no one could judge me.  I avoided contact with almost everyone.

postpartum depression
It’s not easy to admit

And the worst part of all was that I lied about what I was feeling to everyone.  I felt humiliated and inadequate and worthless but I hid it the best I could.  I dressed the baby up in cute outfits and took cute pictures of her to post on social media.  I posted captions about how much I loved having a baby girl and how all of my dreams had come true but in reality I just wanted to rewind life to a time before she existed.

The more I tried to “fix” things, the worse they got.  Even when I tried to “snap out of it” the baby was still reacting to my negative energy and crying all day and night.  My brain was full of terrible ways I could get her to shut up but instead I locked myself in the bathroom and cried for what seemed like hours.  The guilt eventually built up huge walls that closed in on me.

For months I battled in silence, not knowing it was postpartum depression.  I kept waiting for this funk to pass, waiting for the “hormones to regulate” but they never did, not without help, that is.


If you have suffered from postpartum depression, past or present,  download this FREE printable PDF workbook to help you tell your story (even if you decide not to share it with anyone else)
Click to download!


No Postpartum Mood Disorder

Considering I went to hell and back with my last baby, I must have been absolutely crazy to have another one, right?  The postpartum depression was forefront in my mind but this time I felt more prepared.  I knew what to look for, and I knew that I needed to speak up if I felt something was even a little bit off.

Perhaps it was because I WAS prepared for it, that it never came.
always be the baby
Baby #3

The first time she was placed in my arms, I felt it.  That immediate love that legends were made of.  I couldn’t wait to hold her and I didn’t want to do anything else except just stare at her perfect face.

The early days with her were peaceful and calm – despite the sleepless nights.  The other two children often played with each other and so I had her all to myself.  The fact that she couldn’t talk back to me actually made me want to spend MORE time with her!

Trying to balance three children was definitely a challenge, and extremely overwhelming at times, but instead of being afraid and nervous and frustrated –  I felt excited and determined to make the best of it!

I felt like I could control my mood.  Even on days when she was extra fussy or I was extra tired, I always managed to stay calm and relaxed around her.  I never felt a sad or negative thought about her.  And she was a calm and relaxed baby because of it.

Initially I worried about how the older children would handle the new baby.  But they never once showed any signs of jealousy towards her and completely welcomed her into our family.  I cried more tears of joy in her first few months than I ever have in my life.

I worried about how much she ate, pooped and slept and whether she was hitting her milestones on time.  Mostly because I was always comparing her to the other children.  In an attempt to get things right this time, I asked a lot of questions, I sought a lot of help and I socialized as often as possible.

I took all three kids out as often as I could.  It was next to impossible to manage all of them in public (and it still is) but I sure didn’t want to get stuck inside the house with them!


I can’t say for certain what factors affected these different postpartum outcomes but this is the way it worked out for me.  After my battle with postpartum depression, having another baby was not in the plans but she surprised us all and I’m glad she did. 

postpartum depression
Join the study to help determine if PPD is in our genes!
When I think about life with a newborn, I try my hardest to reflect on the happiness of my last one, but will never forget the darkness that came before.

Here’s an example of the different emotional intensities!

A Condition Called D-MER: When Breastfeeding Makes You Feel Sad

When I talk of breastfeeding and sadness, the conversation always leans towards postpartum depression.  But there is something else that can cause sadness during breastfeeding that is completely unrelated to postpartum depression


*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.


The way D-MER was described to me is that it’s a chemical imbalance that’s triggered with the let-down reflex.

[Here is the actual Wikipedia definition.]

Different women feel it different ways and at different levels of intensity.  Dysphoric means negative feelings so the feelings range from depressed to angry.  Some women describe it as a “homesick” feeling in the pit of the stomach.

FOR ME, IT FELT LIKE AN ANXIETY ATTACK.  My insides felt as though they were twisting and bubbling and my heart started racing.  I would get a tingling pins and needles sensation all over my upper body and arms.  There was this overwhelming feeling of “dread” as if something terrible was about to happen.  Like that feeling you get when you wake up late for work, or if you’ve done something wrong and feel scared someone is going to find out.

The feeling only lasted for the first few minutes after a let down reflex but it happened every single time I had a let down reflex… every single time I breastfed.
I talk more about that awesome Public Health Nurse in this post!

And while I came to anticipate them each time I breastfed or pumped milk, I didn’t associate these negative feelings with the let down reflex – I just assumed they came at random times.  Naturally, I classified them as some sort of postpartum depression symptom since I suffered with PPD and the baby blues with my first two children.

It wasn’t until I mentioned the strange sensation to my public health nurse shortly after the birth of my third child that she suggested it might be D-MER.  After some research on it, I knew instantly it was what I had, especially since I had zero symptoms of a postpartum mood disorder this time around.

Postpartum hormones come in all shapes and sizes

THE NUMBER ONE TREATMENT OPTION FOR D-MER IS AWARENESS!

Breastfeeding my third child was much easier after knowing exactly the cause of these strange feelings.  I learned to breathe through the anxiety attacks and wait for them to be over – similar to breathing through labour contractions.  The confusion, the guilt, the shame and the stress were all gone because now I knew that it was simply a reflex, and not a psychological problem.


I wish I had known about this condition when I first started breastfeeding.  I didn’t say anything about it to anyone because I thought it was just another symptom of postpartum depression and there are so many reasons why mothers don’t speak up about having postpartum depression.  

postpartum depression
speak up when you’re feeling down!

 


Of course, for some women the sensations are so severe that awareness alone is not a solution.  There are different treatment options available.  Natural treatments include Rhodiola Supplements, Vitamin B12, Placenta Encapsulation & Acupuncture.  Prescription treatments are also available.

www.D-MER.org has tons of information, resources and treatment options and should be your first stop for info on this fairly new & unknown condition.

Click here join their official Facebook group: Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) Support Group from d-mer.org


RELATED READING:

indigo.ca

The Revised and Updated 8th Edition of the The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding (La Leche League International) has a section on D-MER.

Fox News recently shared this article – DMER: the scary breast-feeding condition you’ve never heard of

Birth Without Fear shared a post on D-MER in 2013: D-MER {No, You are Not Crazy}

Read this first hand account about D-MER on The Badass Breastfeeder

The Naughty Mommy writes about her struggle with The Breastfeeding Blues a.k.a. D-MER


PIN IT!

9 Reasons Why Mothers Don’t Speak Up About Having Postpartum Depression

I battled with postpartum depression silently for a long time and didn’t speak a word of it to anyone, nor did I have any intention to.

The reason why I finally decided to share my story was because I was so emotionally moved by the tragic story of a woman from my hometown, Lisa Gibson, who suffered and died from postpartum depression in 2013 (along with her two children).  The story, in itself, was truly heartbreaking but what bothered me the most was the public reaction.  Many people seemed to believe that she got what she deserved.

Her story was a worst case scenario, but I dreaded what others would think of me if they knew the dark thoughts and feelings that I battled with while I had postpartum depression.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy like that to encourage someone to speak up but it made me realize two important things:

1.)  I was not alone.

2.)  We need to annihilate the stigma of postpartum depression.


The month of May is National Maternal Depression Awareness Month.

As a survivor of postpartum depression, bringing awareness and help to others who are suffering is a cause that is close to my heart.  While it can be terrifying to “speak up when you’re feeling down” it is so important both for our own mental health and to help bring awareness about this debilitating condition.

postpartum depression

*This post contains affiliate links which means that if you click on one of these links and buy a product, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured that I only recommend products that I love from companies that I trust.

**Furthermore, I am not a medical professional and nothing in this post should be taken as medical advice. I am simply a mother who has been there and lived to tell the tale.

1. We are in denial.  

Prior to becoming a mother myself, I had heard about postpartum depression in all of it’s notorious glory.  But I never, ever, in a million years, thought it would happen to me.  I had ZERO risk factors and an awesome support system.  So when the first few symptoms started popping up, I laughed it off…  “ME??? Postpartum depression??? Never!!!”

Mayo Clinic
Postpartum Depression Risk Factors

2. We think this is “normal” motherhood.

All we ever hear about when it comes to parenting is how hard it is.  The sleep loss, the crying, the breastfeeding struggle – it’s all normal… right?  A brand new mother experiencing symptoms of postpartum depression may assume that this is what everyone meant when they said it was hard.  I’ve heard stories of women opening up to others about what they were feeling, only to be told “welcome to motherhood.”

PostpartumDepression.org
Think you have PPD? Take this quiz!
It can be hard to tell the difference

3. We are terrified of having our child taken away from us.

Obviously we want what’s best for our child but it would be a mother’s worst nightmare to be deemed incapable of caring for her own child (the child who got her into this mess in the first place, might I add).  If anyone knew the thoughts that a mother with postpartum depression has on a regular basis, they would lock her up and throw away the key. (If you are feeling the urge to act upon your bad thoughts, seek help immediately as you may be suffering from a rarer case of postpartum psychosis). 

postpartum depression
Be Strong Mama

4. We are ashamed of ourselves.  

For some reason, society has led us to believe that having postpartum depression is our fault.  Admitting to it is admitting that we were one of the weak ones who fell susceptible to the curse that is postpartum depression.  We feel like terrible people for thinking and feeling the way we do, even though we have no control over it.

postpartum depression
Visit www.pactforthecure.com for full details

5. We are concerned about what others will think of us.

If we are diagnosed with postpartum depression that means we are classified as “mentally ill” and will need to accept the stigma that comes along with that label.  All of a sudden we are dangerous and unpredictable.  Will other people start to question our parenting skills now?  Will they treat us as if we are delicate and fragile and weak?  What will our co-workers or employers think?  Will having postpartum depression jeopardize our futures?

Help your loved ones support you better

6. We feel like failures.

This is not the way it was supposed to happen.  In our dreams of becoming mothers we pictured it blissful and beautiful.  We imagined sitting in a rocking chair, singing lullabies to a sleepy, happy baby.  And when it wasn’t like this, we felt like we had failed. We failed our children and robbed them of a happy childhood.  We failed our spouses and robbed them of a happy marriage. We failed ourselves and all of our dreams of motherhood.  No one ever wants to admit that they are a failure.

7. We think we can cure ourselves.

We think it will go away on it’s own, eventually.  Or maybe we’re planning to tell someone when it gets worse… it just hasn’t yet.  We think that if we sleep a little more, relax a little more, meditate and do yoga that our postpartum depression will magically go away and so there’s no need to burden anyone else with our problems.  Sometimes it does and then it’s just a mild case or the “baby blues” but if it’s truly postpartum depression it’s highly unlikely that it will go away without treatment.

Logo for WebMD
Postpartum Depression Treatment Options

8. We don’t trust the medical system.

It’s a sad truth that many women who open up about postpartum depression still don’t get the help they need.  Unless you already have a trusting relationship with a medical professional it can be difficult to find the right person to seek help from with such a personal matter.  The fear is that we’ll be told we’re over-exaggerating, drug seekers or that it’s all in our head.

[If you need help finding local professionals you can trust call the PSI Warmline 1-800-944-4773 (4PPD)]

postpartum.net – your first point of contact to get help with postpartum depression

9. We feel alone.

We’ve joined online support groups.  We read the posts and silently agree without so much as a “like.” The women write about how they’re exhausted and overwhelmed.  They talk about how they can’t sleep at night, how they can’t eat or can’t stop eating and how they worry about everything all the time.  And we can relate to that.

But what those women don’t talk about is the bad thoughts they have.  It’s incriminating and requires a *trigger warning* and what if no one else feels the same way?

I’m here to tell you that I don’t care what bad thoughts you have, I don’t want nor need to know what they are because chances are, I’ve had them too.  You don’t have to say them out loud.  You can pretend like you didn’t even think them, so long as you know that you are not the only person who has thought them.  You are not alone.


When you’re ready to tell your postpartum depression story – download this FREE printable PDF workbook to help you collect your thoughts and come to terms with what you are feeling.
Click to download!


 

What Breastfeeding Meant to Me

We’ve all heard of the benefits of breastfeeding #breastisbest!  We’ve also probably heard a number of horror stories about bleeding nipples and bathroom feedings.  It takes sacrifice, practice and patience but what you get out of it is so worth it.

babyatbreast


When I was pregnant for the first time, I didn’t need any convincing to breastfeed.  I was so curious about experiencing this miracle for myself (and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on formula).  I researched more on breastfeeding than anything else while I was pregnant and I was probably more worried about successfully breastfeeding than I was about labor and delivery.

This helped!

At first, breastfeeding came easily.  Baby latched on well.  Except that ONE time.  Which led to a cracked nipple.  Which turned into mastitis.  Oh and what are those white patches inside his mouth?  Greaaaat… he’s got thrush.

And then engorgement happened and while I was happy to see the breasts I’ve always dreamed of, I couldn’t put my arms down at my sides because of the milk backed up into my armpits.  Which led to a clogged milk duct.  Which turned into mastitis.. again.

And that was only 1 month in…

But not once did I think – “maybe this isn’t for me.”  Because it wasn’t about me.  It was about my baby. 

And I was going to give him the best damn breast milk a body could make, even if it meant wearing cabbage leaves in my bra.

But, actually, it was about me.

Because for the 9 months that I carried him, the people in my life took good care of me.  I felt like the most important person in the world to them.

They called to see how I was doing, carried bags for me and opened doors for me.

They painted rooms and cooked me food and bought me gifts.

They put their hands on my belly and while I thought I wouldn’t  enjoy that, I really did.  Because it made them so excited to witness this miracle growing inside of me.

And in those final hours before he was born, they comforted me and encouraged me and cried with me.

And then it was over…

They placed him in my arms and in that one instant it all became about him.

My needs faded into the background and his came first.  Everyone crowded around to get a glimpse of his tiny face and fought over who got to hold him next.  This was the way it was now, and would be for a very long time.  For a few seconds I felt jealous.  But then… he cried.  He was hungry…

Suddenly I became the most important person in the world again – to him.  And it didn’t matter whether or not I was important to anyone else as long as I was important to him.

Breastfeeding my second child came easier.

But she cried.  She cried so… damn… much.

She didn’t like when anyone held her except me but she also didn’t like NOT being held.

She refused to take a bottle.

She refused to take a pacifier.

She was constantly gassy and it took an elaborate series of moves just to get her to burp.

The only thing that could soothe her was a nursing session…

postpartum depression
I didn’t speak up then but I’m speaking up now

In the gloomy hours of the night, as I sat lonely in the nursery with my breast shoved into her mouth to keep her quiet while everyone else was asleep, I felt a deep darkness set in.  I cried because it’s so much easier to cry in the dark when no one is watching.  I was so tired.  And I was so mad.  I hated that I was the only one able to soothe her.  It felt like a curse.  It became a regular occurrence during our 3 am feeding sessions.  She would suck and I would cry.  I wanted to sleep.  I hated breastfeeding.  I hated that it was all on me to do this.  I hated feeling like I was on a leash, a servant to my baby’s cries for comfort.

But that was just the postpartum depression talking…

My doctor offered to put me on medication – “but you can’t breastfeed while you’re on it,” he said.

WOO-HOO – a way out!

But as much as I hated breastfeeding, the thought of stopping – like really, actually stopping, not just threatening to stop – opened me up to a flood of emotions.  I cried again, but not because I was mad, this time it was out of sadness and regret.  I was sorry for this little girl who just wanted to eat and her mother hated feeding her.  She would be deprived of the benefits of breast milk because of me.  I felt like I had failed her.

So I exhaled after what seemed like an incredibly long breath in.  And then I felt inspired and encouraged to do right by her.

“No, thank you, doctor.  I WANT to breastfeed my baby”


If you have suffered from postpartum depression, past or present,  download this FREE printable PDF workbook to help you tell your story (even if you decide not to share it with anyone else)
Click to download!


It was the breastfeeding that led me into the darkness but also the breastfeeding that saved me.

From a mother who knows what it feels like

My youngest daughter also gave me a fair share of trouble when it came to breastfeeding.
I learned this from her!

At the time of her birth, we lived in a small town in Saskatchewan and the one public health nurse there had been the public health nurse for over 20 years.  She had watched all the town’s babies be born, she helped their mothers feed them, she vaccinated them and gave them flu shots.  She watched the efforts of her hard work grow up into strong and healthy adults.

She was, by far, the BEST nurse I ever had the honour of knowing and she taught me more about breastfeeding than I ever learned from the countless nurses and midwives I had in years before.

So we got through the tough stuff, thanks to her.


And it was only with my third baby did I truly come to ENJOY breastfeeding.

Being an already busy mom of two, I longed for those moments when I could just sit down for a few minutes to feed the baby.

I studied her face, her eye color and the way her hair was growing in.

She never bit or scratched me.

She loved to make eye contact.

She didn’t talk or demand that I pay attention to her.

She just drank and was happy and content.

It was a tiny peaceful moment… our moment… my moment.


 Now that I am done breastfeeding my babies – I miss those moments… the peaceful ones, the painful ones and the dark ones. 

To them it was merely sustenance, but to me it was so much more.